SC refuses to pass order for payment of wages to migrant workers during lockdown : The Tribune India

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SC refuses to pass order for payment of wages to migrant workers during lockdown

SC refuses to pass order for payment of wages to migrant workers during lockdown


Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 7

Maintaining that policy decisions were prerogative of the Government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to pass orders for payment of wages to migrant workers affected by the 21-day nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

"We don't want to supplant the wisdom of the Government with our wisdom," a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde told petitioners' counsel Prashant Bhushan during a hearing conducted via video conferencing.

"There is a dispute on facts and the best course to be adopted...How can you say that the Government has not done anything when you have not seen the status report filed by it?" the Bench asked Bhushan.

"We can't take a better policy decision at this stage. We don't want to interfere with government decisions for the next 10-15 days," it said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta -- who had on Friday said that PIL shops must close down -- contended that except vague assertions there were no facts in the petition.

As the Bench asked Bhushan to respond to the status report filed by the government by Monday, the activist lawyer said, "By Monday many people will die. Those registered with the government should be given some money to send to their families back home."

Asking the petitioners to respond to the government's status report, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 13.

The Supreme Court had on Friday asked the Centre to respond to a PIL seeking directions to ensure payments of wages/minimum  wages to migrant workers employed  by some establishments/contractors  or  those self-employed as they  were  unable  to  work and earn wages due to nationwide lockdown in view of COVID-19 pandemic.

A Bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao had issued notice to the Centre on a PIL filed by activist Anjali Bhardwaj and Harsh Mander, the top court expressed concern over the plight of migrant workers in the unorganised sector and asked the Centre to file its response by April 7.

During hearing of another PIL, the Centre had earlier told the top court that more than 21,000 temporary shelters had been set up where close to seven lakh migrant workers had been accommodated across India and they were being given food and medical facilities.

The petitioners had also sought directions to the  central  and  state  governments  to  immediately  activate National  and  State  Advisory  Committees  of  experts  in  the  field  of disaster  management  and  public  health  and  prepare  national  and state  disaster  management  plans  for  dealing  with  COVID-19.

The plan should be prepared taking into  account  all  relevant  aspects,  mitigation measures, state  disaster  management  plans  for  dealing  with  the  pandemic,  besides mitigation measures, their  possible  costs  and  consequences  required under  the Disaster  Management  Act,  2005.

The order imposing a nationwide lockdown led to  loss  of  jobs  and  employment of  lakhs of migrant workers as a result of which they  were faced with shortage of money,  food  and  shelter  and  were forced to march  back  to  their  homes, the petitioners said, adding, it made a mockery  of  the  rnorms  of  social  distancing.  

The  lockdown order for  which  no  prior  intimation  was  given,  created  a  panic across  the  country  and  led  to  the  instantaneous  loss  of  jobs  and  wages  of millions  of  migrant  workers  employed  in  establishments  across  India  or  self-employed  as  street  vendors,  rickshaw  pullers,  domestic  house  helps,  petty job  workers,  etc, the petitioners submitted.


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